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MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELL
Saipan, 1944: GIs from an engineering outfit search a dead Japanese. The M1 'tommy-gunner' with the 30-round magazine wears first pattern HBTs; the other two still have one-piece HBT suits. The kneeling man has his 'dogtags' taped together to keep them quiet; and a rarely seen 'CIO' brassard (Counter Intelligence Officer?).
Old knuckle-guard trench knives from World War I, USMC K-bars, individually ground-down bayonets and civilian hunting knives were all seen in use throughout the war. Issue of the newly designed M3 fighting knife began in late 1942. The M3 trench knife had a 7in (17.8cm) parkerised blade; its most distinctive feature was its bent thumb rest on the guard. A well-liked general purpose knife, it was issued in a metal- reinforced leather (M6) or later plastic composite (M8) scabbard. The similar M1 carbine bayonet (M4) was produced in 1944 and replaced the MS (In Europe the 1st Special Service Force also had their own custom- made V42 combat knives.)
The M1939 machete had a 22in (55.9cm) blade made by Collins and came in a leather sheath; the M1942 had an 18in blade and a canvas or plastic sheath. The short, broad-bladed, pointed M1910/1917 and USMC Bolos were also used in limited numbers.
Makin Island, November 1943: a 27th Division BAR man awaits the enemy behind a fallen palm trunk. Note the front-to-back depth of the M1928 pack; and the large six-pocket BAR belt - each magazine held 20 rounds and each pouch two magazines, giving a basic load of 240 rounds.
The MkIIAl fragmentation grenade or 'pineapple' was based on the classic British No.l8/No.36 series ('Mills bombs') used in both World Wars, though with a different design of igniter set and fly-off safety 'spoon'; it weighed 21oz (595g) and had a four-second fuse. Early-manufacture fuses emitted a loud 'pop' accompanied by smoke and sparks, and in the humid Pacific there were frequent 'duds' due to ignition problems; later improved fuses were more reliable For the first year of the war the grenade came with the body painted entirely yellow (blue for training grenades). Later, just a yellow stripe around the top, or lettering, were the usual indicators of a filled grenade. Unlike the adequate German or weak Japanese types, US frag grenades were both powerful and deadly.
The 14oz (396g) MkIIIAl model was a smooth- skinned HE/concussion grenade; GIs felt it to be dangerous to the user and less effective than the 'pineapple'. (Most armies of the day differentiated between high-fragmentation 'defensive' grenades, to be thrown at an attacking enemy from behind cover; and low-fragmentation 'offensive' grenades, to be thrown ahead of the advancing troops for concussion effect without endangering the thrower. The distinction proved to be more theoretical than practical.)
Smoke was commonly used to provide cover or to signal. The M16 cylindrical smoke grenades (1943) were available in green, violet, orange, black, yellow, and red colours; the more effective M18 smoke came out in 1944. M8 (white) and M2 (red) smoke were also issued in limited numbers. These 'smoke cans' were painted blue-grey with a waist band and lettering in yellow and the tops painted in the relevant smoke colour.
Bougainville, 1944: a 37th Division GI winds up for the pitch, throwing his grenade baseball style - though most soldiers found the text book straight-armed lob to be the best method for throwing. Under magnification this GI can be seen to have his ID tags fixed together with a dark rubber rim.
The M15 white phosporous (WP) grenade was excellent for smoke starting fires marking targets, and suppressing enemy bunkers. The heavy 31oz (878g) WP or 'Willy-Peter' was cylindrical, but had a semi- rounded bottom so as to be distinguishable from smoke cans by feel It had a four-second delay fuse and a bursting radius almost wider than it could be thrown. The can was painted blue-grey and marked with a waist band and 'SMOKE WP' in yellow.
The M14 thermite grenade was used for signalling and for destroying machinery. This 32oz (907g) grenade had a two-second fuse; the blue-grey can was marked with a waist band and 'TH INCENDIARY' in purple.
Chemical (gas) grenades were rarely used in World War II, though M6 and M7 CN/DM teargas grenades were sometimes used to root out the occupants of bunkers and caves. Gas grenades were blue-grey cylindrical cans, marked with a waist band and 'GAS IRRITANT' in red.
Rifle grenades available to the GI came in anti-tank, smoke and parachute flare variants; they had a range of under 200 yards. A special unbulleted blank round was used to propel them, and a small M7 'vitamin pill' could be inserted to boost the range by 40-50 yards. The 03/M1917, M1 rifle and M1 carbine all used similar clamp-on muzzle devices The M1/M1A1 grenade adapter was a solid, finned tube with a three- or four-pronged clamp which would hold a 'pineapple' (or even a 60mm mortar bomb). The 03 used the M1 launcher, which allowed the rifle to fire ball rounds while it was in place. The M1917 took the M2 launcher. The M7 grenade launcher for the M1 Garand began issue in mid-1944 but was unpopular since it did not allow ball rounds to be fired; the M7A2 did, but only became available after VJ-Day. In early 1944 the M8 grenade launcher attachment was added to the M1 carbine.
Most rifle grenades were fired at a high angle with the butt braced against the ground and turned sideways; M9/M9A1 anti-tank (shaped charge) grenades used contact fuses and were commonly fired from the shoulder at AFVs and bunkers. Both the 03 and M1 could use a rarely- seen rubber boot which covered the butt and absorbed much of the recoil. The wooden rifle stock could sometimes be damaged when firing grenades, the M1 carbine being particularly prone to a cracked stock; the use of the folding stock carbine as a platform was not recommended. Both the soft ground and the corrosive climate of the Pacific made rifle grenades somewhat less popular there; they were also dangerous to use in thickly wooded terrain, with the risk of striking a treetrunk and bouncing back at the user.